With a 6-5 vote Tuesday, the City Council shot down an ordinance that would have allowed the trucks, albeit in a limited fashion since only up to three food trucks would have been permitted.
Voting against the ordinance were Mayor Jim Ardis and council members Gary Sandberg, Bill Spears, Dan Irving, Clyde Gulley and Eric Turner. Voting in favor were council members Timothy Riggenbach, Ryan Spain, Barbara Van Auken, Beth Akeson and Chuck Weaver.
“I firmly do not think this will create new people spending money to eat out in Peoria,” Ardis said, voicing his concern about how the ordinance would have affected “brick and mortar” restaurants that have to pay property taxes and year-round utility costs. “The existing brick and mortar business people have to pay for air conditioning when its 100 degrees out and pay for heat when it’s 10 below. The mobile vendor keeps his truck in the garage.”
Other opponents expressed skepticism about what type of urban vibrancy three mobile food trucks could bring to areas of Downtown Peoria or within the Warehouse District.
“I still don’t (understand) the … excitement of an urban environment and how three food trucks will do that,” Sandberg said.
The defeated ordinance would have charged truck operators $3,400 to serve food at approved locations within the Warehouse District, in front of the Peoria Civic Center and along Hamilton Boulevard next to the Peoria County Courthouse. The fee was $1,000 less for truck operators who already own a restaurant.
Outside the Downtown area, the ordinance restricted food trucks from being within 200 feet of existing restaurants.
Also, the ordinance established a 500-foot restriction on food trucks from schools, carnivals, festivals and other special events.
City officials had been working on crafting an ordinance for several months after a couple of food truck operators approached them about wanting to operate in Downtown Peoria during lunch hours. Two public meetings have been held and the council had previously deferred the issue so the city’s staff could provide more information and refine the ordinance.
Proponents expressed frustration with the opposing viewpoints, saying the food trucks represents a somewhat progressive movement, along with the push carts, to make Downtown more vibrant.
“It signals we are open to new ideas,” Akeson said.
Spain, who also supported the ordinance, noted that the proposal did not increase the number of mobile Downtown food vendors. City ordinance permits 13 of them, of which only seven licenses are actively in use to operate food carts. City staff members also were looking at the potential of limiting that number to 10.
Food trucks have been popping up in urban areas throughout the United States since the recession struck. In some locations, lawmakers have struggled with how to regulate them.
John Sharp can be reached at 686-3282 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSharp99.